March 17, 1998 in Nation/World

Batt Signs Late-Term Abortion Bill Governor Effectively Shifts Debate To Courts

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Gov. Phil Batt signed into law a ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortions on Monday, despite two opinions from the Idaho attorney general declaring the measure unconstitutional.

Batt had harsh words for backers of the new law, saying he doesn’t expect the measure to have any effect on the number of abortions performed in Idaho.

But, he said, “I will sign it in the hope that this divisive and unproductive debate will not permeate future (legislative) sessions.”

Kerry Uhlenkott, legislative director of Right to Life of Idaho, the group that proposed the bill, was “ecstatic.”

“This ban has been found to stop not only partial-birth abortions but also other abortions,” Uhlenkott said. “When people realize more and more about what this procedure does, … they realize as they’re hearing about this debate that there truly was a baby involved.”

The Idaho American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Idaho said they plan to file a court challenge to the law within the week.

“It will be challenged and it will be enjoined,” said Jack Van Valkenburgh of the ACLU. “We’re disappointed, but we will be vindicated in court.”

Mary Kelly McColl, Planned Parenthood director, said such bans are being overturned around the country. Courts have held that similar laws have such broad language that they outlaw many procedures, not just the targeted late-term abortions, she said. The new Idaho law makes no distinction as to how far along the pregnancy is when the abortion is performed.

Uhlenkott said Idaho has become the 21st state to sign such a ban into law. “By the end of the legislative session, there’s a good chance that 25 states will have signed this type of legislation,” she said. “I think it just shows that there’s a real momentum growing within the states to ban this procedure nationwide, and this undoubtedly will have an effect on the Supreme Court.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether such legislation is constitutional, but similar laws have been struck down or enjoined in a dozen states.

The new law outlaws a procedure that involves pulling a fetus into the birth canal before it is dead. Uhlenkott said groups supporting such bans acknowledge that other abortion procedures are protected under the Roe vs. Wade decision of the Supreme Court.

But she said a footnote of the Roe decision says the court didn’t address a state law that banned the killing of a child in the process of being born. By arguing that the abortion procedure in question essentially creates a birth situation, activists are opening a new front in the battle over abortion.

“That’s where our arguments are going to,” Uhlenkott said. “This is a child in the process of being born, so this kind of procedure is not protected in Roe.”

Uhlenkott said other abortion procedures also are “nauseating,” but clearly can’t be legally challenged.

Idaho Attorney General Al Lance, in a legal opinion earlier in the legislative session, suggested that Idaho wait for the high court to act before enacting its own law. Idaho has joined with other states in requesting the Supreme Court to review an Ohio case.

Batt noted that according to research, no such late-term abortion procedure has been performed in Idaho.

“This bill came before the Legislature partly as a result of a prospective political campaign, and because of advocate groups hoping to strengthen their cause and their membership,” the Republican governor said.

House Speaker Mike Simpson said, “I think he’s right in that it may be the political campaign had something to do with it being brought up now. At least I think that helped focus the attention on it.”

But Simpson, R-Blackfoot, said the bill’s main legislative sponsor, Rep. Dan Mader, R-Genesee, is not running for Congress.

Simpson is. So is Rep. Mark Stubbs, R-Twin Falls, a co-sponsor of another abortion bill this session. And Sen. Stan Hawkins, R-Ucon, who campaigned for the “partial-birth” bill before the session and said he planned to propose it, has been considering a run.

The open congressional seat is in Idaho’s 2nd District, which includes strongly anti-abortion eastern Idaho.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

PARENTAL CONSENT

Also on Monday, a conference committee was appointed to try to resolve differences between the House and Senate on another anti-abortion bill, House Bill 610. That measure, sponsored by the Idaho Family Forum, requires parental consent for minors’ abortions and revamps Idaho’s existing abortion laws.

This sidebar appeared with the story: PARENTAL CONSENT Also on Monday, a conference committee was appointed to try to resolve differences between the House and Senate on another anti-abortion bill, House Bill 610. That measure, sponsored by the Idaho Family Forum, requires parental consent for minors’ abortions and revamps Idaho’s existing abortion laws.


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